A University of South Florida professor’s latest invention promises to help asthma and allergy sufferers breathe easier by ridding their homes of pollutants.
Yogi Goswami, 68, a mechanical engineer at USF, says he has developed the world’s first molecular home air purifier, which not only traps pollutants in the air, but also breaks them down into natural compounds like water and carbon dioxide.
“We don’t just filter pollutants, we destroy them,” Goswami said.
Goswami unveiled his new Molekule air purifier, a sleek, 2-foot tall aluminum cylinder, Wednesday at USF. It took more than two decades, however, to get to that point.
The invention grew out of a desire to help his son, Dilip, overcome allergic reactions that would frequently trigger asthma attacks and land him in the emergency room. The family could combat his food allergies by closely monitoring his diet, but couldn’t protect him from irritants in the air.
The commercial air purifiers available in the 1980s, when Goswami began his research, only trapped microorganisms in HEPA filters, where they could continue to multiply and be released back into the air. The filters also provided ideal conditions for mold to grow.
“The problem is the very technology we use as a safeguard was now becoming the source of the pollution,” said Jaya Rao, 30, Goswami’s daughter and COO of his company. Dilip, now 35, is working as CEO of Molekule.
Hoping to use his experience as a scientist to help his son, Goswami decided to attend an annual conference for the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers, but was disappointed by the lack of innovation in indoor air quality. On his flight home, Goswami began thinking about his years of solar research, particularly a project where he used solar photocatalytic technology to clean contaminated groundwater.
“I just thought that maybe that technology could work indoors also, except instead of sun light we would have to use light of a specific wavelength,” Goswami said. “We just need light, the catalyst, and water, which we have naturally through humidity in the air. Everything we need is there.”
After about 20 years of research, Goswami invented a new process to detoxify air called photo electrochemical oxidation. A LED light inside the Molekule air purifier simulates sunlight to create a chemical reaction in a replaceable, nano-coated filter that quickly breaks down harmful molecules like allergens and chemicals.
“It’s a tremendous feeling,” Yogi Goswami said. “The first great feeling was when we showed we could 100 percent disinfect the air completely, but my main motivation was seeing that this is helping my son, and I hope it will help everyone else also.”
Goswami beta tested his Molekule air purifier with 30 testers across the country, all of which he said saw tremendous health benefits. The Molekule can trap pollutants about 1,000 times smaller than the smallest elements caught by HEPA filters, Rao said.
Stephen Liggett, vice dean for research at the USF Morsani College of Medicine, suffers from asthma and began using Molekule in his home about three years ago.
“I brought it into the bedroom, I keep it on all the time and I’ve really noticed a miraculous change in my symptoms,” Liggett said.
The OEM Air Purifiers can replace the air in up to 600 square feet of space twice in one hour.
Molekule air purifiers can be preordered for $499 and are expected to be shipped in 2017, when they will cost $799. For $99 a year, the device will automatically order new filters when it needs to be changed.